I think that the issues you raise are not as black-and-white as you perhaps
perceive them. However, it is useful to encourage those that do band birds (as
well people doing as any number of other activities) to occasionally reflect on
what their aims are and what their personal motivation is in targetting those
aims. It is much less useful to be confrontational and forming opinions without
having gathered first-hand knowledge on the topic.
In light of this, let me propose what I hope will be an impartial and
constructive reflection on bird banding with a few points I hope you will find
useful (in no particular order):
1. In Australia, I would venture to say that a large proportion (if not the
majority) of birds that are banded are done so as part of a very targetted
research study. Knowing the identity of individual birds is critical for
developing an understanding of their life history, their evolutionary biology,
and the conservation of species/communities. Without these identities, we
cannot develop a clear understanding of the fine-scale causal effects of things
such as behaviour, reproductive output, and consequently changes in population
dynamics. Counting birds (combined with experimental treatments) can tell you a
great deal about potential causes of changes in animal populations, but only
detailed studies provide the linkages between the cause and the effect.
2. As far as I am aware, there is a move in progress to develop tools that can
generate comparable metrics across different long-term studies. There are many
sites that have been sampled for very long periods of time, and performing
identical analyses across a range of these will be an powerful way of capturing
temporal changes in population demography, structure, or even community
processes over time. A classic example of this is the suite of studies that
have shown the impacts of the disappearance and re-appearance of raptors
(associated with the ban on DDT) on bird communities.
3. I really agree that banders should reflect on whether they have a measurable
goal that they are working towards with their projects. This includes
critically questioning when the last time they analysed or tracked the progress
of their data towards these goals, whether they are collecting data at a scale
that is going to allow them/someone to draw some conclusions from their data.
What non-targetted banders (i.e. those that band all species in a community)
may also want to consider is whether they should be sharing their data with
others in order to facilitate scientific inquiry and generate broader value
from their efforts/impacts on the birds.
4. One valuable contribution of long-terms studies has been to train students
and new banders in the techniques required to become profficient at running
their own study sites. This is a long apprentiship that not everyone passes.
However, banders should also question whether they are providing enough
opportunities for students to train effectively and comprehensively under them.
5. On a more political point - the bird banding scheme is well supported by the
federal government, and has probably supported dozens if not hundreds of
students in their research. WIthout a critical mass, we could easily see this
great resource taken away from us. This would be a great loss to the scientific
As a photographer, you might perhaps suggest that people within your community
make an effort to inform themselves of the potential impacts of their
activities on birds. Stress has a huge impact on birds, but is much more
difficult to assess, measure or track. Using playback, lures, flash photography
or even flushing birds can significantly impact their stress levels, on-par
with being caught in a mist-net (what may seem an obviously different risk to
you may not be so obvious to a bird), and have carry-over effects into breeding
and eventually survival.
On a closing note, it is important to remember that all research, no matter how
basic or untargetted it might seem, is valuable. Studying animals in the wild
has produced a wealth of knowledge that has had huge impact across many topics,
ranging from computer game design to tracking stock markets. Scientific enquiry
should be supported at all costs, and attacks on research programs currently
underway in Australia will have terrible consequences for the future of science
in this country.
> Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2014 08:50:22 +1100
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Re Banding trip to Buddigower Nature Reserve take 2
> In response to Harveys reply I need to apologise to Harvey about leaving the
> nets unattended as he has now said that the nets were not opened before they
> went off and set up camp and I have already sent a personal email to Harvey
> on that subject. But if you had read Harvey's Blog here is an excerpt from
> it; " When we arrived at Buddigower, Karen and I set to to get a few nets
> up before dusk, in the same area we had banded those four years previously,
> then went about the business of setting up camp" This quote is how I came
> to that conclusion, however it still does not change my point of view about
> banding birds in a local areas, again I ask for what purpose is it done?
> My personal thoughts are that a bird count done regularly by a local bird
> club will give you a considerable amount of information without putting the
> birds thru the trauma of being banded. Last Saturday afternoon I personally
> observed Sharp-tailed Sandpipers that had recently arrived and were
> vigorously feeding after their annual migration to our shores. They were
> feeding in one of the ponds near the Burrow Pits at the Western Treatment
> Plant and as they struggled to raise their legs in the soft mud I couldn't
> help but think that if they had large leg flags on their feet and that if
> birds of prey were around, which is quite common at this site, it could be
> the difference between life and death for those birds.
> Most people now know that the population of waders are dramatically dropping
> as many local groups throughout Australian do numerous wader counts and that
> information is passed on to the appropriate people and/or organizations.
> So why should we continue to Net, Traumatize and in some cases kill or maim
> birds, all for so-called research? I for one think not!
> Kindest Regards
> Geoff Jones
> Barra Imaging
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